NZ name unchanged squad for Tests
New Zealand have named an unchanged squad for the two Tests against India from the one that beat West Indies 2-0 in December. The selectors, also announced that Jesse Ryder will travel with the squad as back-up for Ross Taylor, whose second child is due during the Test series.
The two-Test series against India starts February 6 at Eden Park, Auckland, followed by the second Test in Wellington from February 14.
There was no place in the squad for Martin Guptill who last played a Test against England in May 2013 before picking up an injury on New Zealand's tour to Bangladesh. The batsman scored big runs on the domestic first-class circuit before making a comeback in the ODIs against West Indies. Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, said the selectors had discussed Guptill and Tom Latham, before backing the current opening pair of Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton. Rutherford and Fulton will prepare for the Test series by playing the two-day warm-up game for New Zealand XI against the Indians on February 2 and 3 in Whangarei.
"Martin was discussed along with Tom Latham who is also pressing his claims at the top of the order. We are showing some faith in both Hamish and Peter," Hesson said. "I think we all know what Peter did last time he was at Eden Park (scored against England). Hamish showed some really good qualities in Hamilton to get us through that last Test win (against West Indies). It is a hard side to make at the moment."
Hesson brushed aside Fulton's dip in form and said it was not unusual for an opening batsman. Fulton made a comeback to the Test squad in March 2013 and scored 347 runs in the three Tests at home against England, including a hundred in each innings in the third Test at Eden Park. Since that series, however, the opening batsman has made just 273 runs in seven Tests at an average of 22.75 with three fifties.
"He played really nicely in Dunedin [against West Indies] for us," Hesson said. "He had two Tests after that where he did not score. That is the lot of an opening batsman. Occasionally he can miss out but he has also played some very valuable innings for us."
Hesson said the settled batting order did not allow for Ryder's selection but the batsman could play if Taylor was unavailable.
"[Ryder] is playing really nicely," Hesson said. "[Batsmen at] Three, four, five had a good last series so there is no spot for him there. But if Ross is unavailable for one of the Tests, then I know Jesse would do a very good job."
The New Zealand coach also backed young legspinner Ish Sodhi and said the pitches for the Tests would have to be "very, very green" for the team management to think of fielding an all-pace attack.
"Even if it a green wicket, it is not green for five days," Hesson said. "So if your seamers are able to do the job over the first two-three days, then you have got some variation coming over the back end. It will have to be very, very green for us not to play a spin bowler.
"He [Sodhi] has returned to first-class cricket. He has some experience in the shorter form and he's performed nicely in that. So he's confident and he's the best spin bowler in the country and he's only 21."
New Zealand squad for the Tests against India: Brendon McCullum (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Jesse Ryder, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson